By Lauren Rearick
At least 12 people were killed and at least four more were wounded in a shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center on Friday, May 31, WAVY-TV reported. According to The Virginian-Pilot, the perpetrator, who police confirmed was a city employee, was killed after firing at police.
Shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday, police responded to reports of a shooting in Building 2 of the municipal center, CNN reports. (According to NBC News, that building houses a mailroom, as well as the city’s public works department and public utilities department.) In a statement to The Virginian-Pilot, one witness to the shooting described hearing “repeated, rapid gunfire.”
One officer was struck by gunfire and was among the injured; the officer was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time, the Associated Press notes. As of Sunday, June 2, four people remained in critical condition, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
In an initial news conference following the shooting, Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer called it the “most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach,” the Virginian-Pilot reported. “The people involved are our friends, co-workers, neighbors and colleagues.”
Of the 12 people killed in the shooting, 11 were current city employees. Together, LaQuita Brown, Ryan Keith Cox, Tara Gallagher, Mary Gayle, Alexander Gusev, Joshua Hardy, Michelle "Missy" Langer, Katherine Nixon, Richard Nettleton, Christopher Rapp, and Robert "Bobby" Williams had served the city in varying capacities for 150 years, ABC News reported. Herbert "Bert" Snelling was a contractor, the Virginian-Pilot noted. Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen told WAVY-TV that the loss of all 12 people “leaves a void that we will never be able to fill.”
Christi Dewar, a survivor of Friday’s shooting, credited Cox with leading her and six other employees to a spare office, thereby saving their lives. According to Dewar, Cox had instructed the group to “barricade the door” using file cabinets; he decided against joining the others, telling Dewar that he wanted to see if anyone else needed help.
"You knew from the start he would lay down his life for anybody," Dewar said. “And that's exactly what he did."
Dwight Brown lost his daughter LaQuita on his birthday, WAVY-TV reported. He called the 39-year-old a “reincarnated Mother Theresa,” and said, “She was my pumpkin. She hated when I called her pumpkin in these older years. That’s my everything. My hands were the first hands to ever touch her at birth.”
President Donald Trump had reportedly been briefed about the shooting, CNN reported. On Saturday, June 1, he tweeted condolences. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and Virginia State Police were expected to help arrive and aid in the investigation. The city and its local United Way created a page for those wishing to give monetary donations to individuals affected by the shooting, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
The attack is the deadliest mass shooting to ever occur in Virginia Beach, the Virginian-Pilot reported. As CNN notes, the attack is the deadliest act of gun violence is the United States in 2019. The last largest mass shooting occurred in a November 2018 at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, where 12 people were killed that night. There have been repeated instances of gun violence across the country since then, but little demonstrable action from politicians to pass any meaningful gun control legislation.
This story has been updated to reflect new information.